Updated 6 Dec 2000

WIRKSWORTH Parish Records 1600-1900

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Articles in RootsWeb "Missing Links" Journal

"A Derbyshire Parish" 15 Dec 1999
"Our Tax Man in 1700" 6 Jan 2000

The appearance of the first article caused an extra 8,000 hits on this website, 100 entries in the Guest Book and around 100 extra e-mails requiring an answer, a lesson in publishing in the right place. Every single message was very pleasant in tone, another lesson on the kind of people interested in Genealogy.

MISSING LINKS: RootsWeb's Genealogy Journal
Vol. 4, No. 51, 15 December 1999, Circulation: 379,025+ 
(c) 1996-99 Julia M. Case and Myra Vanderpool Gormley

Editor-at-Fault: Julia M. Case 
Co-Editor-to-Blame: Myra Vanderpool Gormley, CG     

RootsWeb HelpDesk: (http://helpdesk.rootsweb.com/) 
Advertising: (rrti@rootsweb.com) 
Public Relations/Press: (stwalsh@rootsweb.com) 

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o A Derbyshire Parish 
o Too Busy?
o Web Links
o The Way Things Were: Marching through Georgia (1905)
o Successful Links: Persistence Pays Off
o Successful Links: Grandma's Bank Passbook 
o Somebody's Links
o Letters to the Editors 
o Humor: Snail Race
o Reprint Policy, Back Issues, How to Subscribe/Unsubscribe 

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                     A DERBYSHIRE PARISH             (Back to the MENU)

        by John Palmer (john.palmer@wirksworth.org.uk) 

My mother had a rare name, DOXEY, and came from a place in the 
middle of Derbyshire, England called Wirksworth. In 1995, using 
the IGI, I traced her line back to 1595, still in Wirksworth. 

I went to Lichfield Cathedral, where the Bishop in charge of 
Wirksworth used to live, and asked for the Bishops Transcripts. 
Here they are sir, one-foot-wide and four-feet-long, in a roll 
of 350-year-old parchment. Don't you have photocopies of these? 
No sir, you'll have to use the originals to work from. But 
that's terrible, they'll fall to bits. Shrug. Then I spoke the
words that changed my life. I'll do a deal, you send me 
photocopies and I'll transcribe them to computer, index them and
send you the printouts. A month later, ding-dong, the postman - 
a parcel for you sir. My heart sank; there's a year's work here. 
I started typing, on my old computer. It was hard work, but it 
got interesting. Six months later I finished the job and posted 
printouts to Lichfield. But I was hooked. I'd gotten to know 
names and places from old Wirksworth -- they were like my family.
How about doing the Parish Registers, and get everyone in 
Wirksworth 1600-1900 on computer? I contacted the IGI HQ in 
England and asked will you lend me microfilm of the Registers to 
use at home, here's what I'm trying to do. Sure thing, but we'd 
like you to send us a progress report every six months, and a 
copy of your final results, for free.

I bought a bigger computer and a fiche reader and started typing
again. Three years of very hard work later I'd finished 70,000 
Register entries. A friend had a Web site, so I got myself an 
ISP and bought a paperback about HTML. Soon I had all the Parish
Register entries on my own Web site and was getting a flood of 
e-mails from around the world, inquiries, and fan-mail. Now I 
was really hooked on Wirksworth.
Soon I realized I wasn't studying one name, but all names from 
one place, together with its local history -- much more 
satisfying. I added everything else I could find about 
Wirksworth. A group let me scan and OCR all their Memorial 
Inscriptions. I transcribed a lot of Churchwarden's Accounts 
from 1650 -- absolutely fascinating. Then I added the census. 
Another friend sent me local histories from 1830, another sent 
old photos including an aerial photo of the town in 1840 (no, 
I'm not going to tell you how that was done, you'll have to 
browse my Web site to find out). Now I'm transcribing a 
handwritten book of 700 local pedigrees that used to be in the 
Duke of Devonshire's Library at Chatsworth House. It's 
tremendous fun.

Want to see the results of five years hard work? Browse the 
Wirksworth Web site at (http://www.wirksworth.org.uk). Better 
still, why not start a "One-Place" Web site as your Millennium 
Project? Put your favorite place on the map, and leave the next 
generation something really useful.

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MISSING LINKS: RootsWeb's Genealogy Journal
Vol. 5, No. 1, 5 January 2000, Circulation: 384,415+ 
(c) 1996-99 Julia M. Case and Myra Vanderpool Gormley

Editor-at-Fault: Julia M. Case 
Co-Editor-to-Blame: Myra Vanderpool Gormley, CG  

RootsWeb HelpDesk:  
Public Relations/Press:     


o Journey from South Africa to Germany
o Web Links
o Our Tax Man in 1700 (Churchwardens' Accounts)
o Somebody's Links
o Letters to the Editors (Orphan Update; British Coinage)
o Humor
o Reprint Policy, Back Issues, How to Subscribe/Unsubscribe 

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                     OUR TAX MAN IN 1700               (Back to the MENU)

          by John Palmer (john.palmer@wirksworth.org.uk) 

The Mormons lent me microfilm of some Derbyshire Parish 
Registers to transcribe at home. At the end of the 100-foot roll
were the Churchwardens Accounts 1658-1727. I browsed these for 
an hour, to see what they were about. They were so interesting 
I spent two months transcribing 10,000 lines and putting them on
my Web site.
Around 1700 the churchwarden was the nearest thing to a tax man.
There were usually five wardens to a parish, elected annually, 
who were men of substance and respect. Each year they collected 
a levy from the town and surrounding villages, and distributed 
it again as church maintenance, benefits and charity. They had 
to keep careful written accounts of everything. These were the 
Churchwardens Accounts.
In 1700 the Pound was worth 100 times today's Pound, so an old 
Pound was about $160, and a penny about 70 cents. Annual levies 
varied, but the average for Wirksworth Parish was 100 Pounds, or
$16,000 today. This was distributed among a population of 5,000 
or 800 heads of families, a few of whom were rich but many were 
grindingly poor. This was the Churchwardens responsibility.
The churchwardens had to keep the church bells and the clock in 
good repair, and pay for oyl and grease for the bells, ale for 
the bell ringers, lime nayles bricks spades hair and sand for 
mending the church fabric, beesoms for sweeping, tallow for 
lighting, Pigs of lead and solder for repairing windows and 
roofs, wine (in huge quantities) and bread for church festivals,
and horses for moving anything heavy or transporting the wardens
on church business.

Churchwardens also were responsible for the curious and gruesome
job of paying anyone who brought a hedgehog (called an urchin) 
or a raven to the church 4 pence ($3) or 1 shilling ($10) for a 
foxes tail. This early form of pest control had been allowed by 
Parliament around 1550, but must have been a great nuisance to 
the church. Some years more than 400 urchins had to be disposed 
of, as well as all the ravens and tails.

In 1702 new bells were needed. 337 pounds were collected 
($55,000), the old bells were weighed and transported to London 
via road, rivers and the sea (there were no canals or railroads),
melted down in the foundry, new bell metal added, a larger peal 
cast and tuned, then transported back to Wirksworth and hung 
with great effort. The churchwardens recorded each step in 
detail along with the cost. Much ale was drunk on completion!

In 1712 a full scale argument arose between a gentleman and the
people of Wirksworth about a right of way across some common 
land. Both sides stated their position in detail, and the poor 
churchwardens had to record these carefully. Briefs were 
regularly read in church asking for collections to be made as 
charity to people in other parishes affected by fire, tempest, 
flood, and even pirates from Turkey. National events (such as 
victory in battle, coronations, or the birth of an heir to the
throne) were announced by ringing the church bells. The six 
ringers demanded ale for their exertions, usually costing five
shillings ($40) in the days before alcohol was taxed.

Churchwardens Accounts are the most valuable of parochial 
records for the wealth of information on such a diverse range 
of topics. Complete details from a Derbyshire parish 300 years 
ago can be browsed on the Wirksworth website at 
(http://www.wirksworth.org.uk) Section 13: Churchwardens Accounts

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